Infiniti hit a gold mine when it hired Alfonso Albaisa as its executive design director in 2013.
The Cuban-American designer creates gorgeous cars for the Japanese luxury car brand, eschewing the trend of hyper-aggressive and over-styled, angular cars for elegant, curvy designs that have a lasting appeal (except for the QX80 perhaps).
Many automakers will tell you their designs have “sensual purity,” which is a terribly over-used piece of public relations garbage. With Infiniti, however, it’s actually quite true — the designs are sophisticated and dignified with just a hint of understated sex appeal.
With the new Q60 coupe slaying in terms of design and the lovely Infiniti QX50 Concept just debuting at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show, we had a chance to sit down with Albaisa to chat about the cars that inspire him. Here’s what he told us.
Albaisa told us that he “gravitates towards late ’50s and ’60s Italian sports cars,” so the Ferrari Dino fits perfectly into his MO. Italian sports cars of this era are famous for being some of the most beautiful cars ever made, and it’s not unusual for designers to pick cars like the Dino, although the Lamborghini Miura is also a common inspiration among car designers.
This is typically the top pick in automotive circles as the most gorgeous car in the world, so it’s not unusual to see Albaisa pick this classic design as one of his favorites. He told us that when he was a child growing up in Miami, he saw a Jaguar E-Type for the first time ever and it changed his life. He remembered how it rumbled as it drove into a pocket of sunshine and how that exact moment sparked his love of cars and design. The E-Type is the reason he designs cars today.
Lincoln Continental Mark 2
American cars of this era get a lot of props from the designer crowd as well. When we spoke to Jaguar designer Ian Callum, he called out the 1965 Buick Riveria for being a huge inspiration for him. Although Albaisa likes them both, he told us he prefers the Lincoln Continental Mark 2 over the Riveria because “it had the proportions of the ’60s, but the shapes of the ’50s.” He referred to both cars as “gentlemanly.”
Another one of his favorites from the best era of Italian cars, the Ghibli has a classic, sleek sports car shape and is powered by a lovely V8. Interestingly, many designers single out Maseratis from earlier eras like the 1940s to early 1960s as the ones that inspire them. The Ghibli didn’t come out until 1967 and has a design that skews more towards the 1970s.
Photo courtesy of Hagerty
For some reason, Albaisa said he was embarrassed about his love for the Porsche 911. We’re not sure why he’s so ashamed, but the 911 is considered to have one of the most timeless designs ever. From modern 911s like the Targa to vintage ones from the 1960s, Albaisa said,” it’s almost like a glass of water to me … It cleanses my palette.” He likes to look at the 911’s simple shape to remind him about the essence of automotive design.